LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Multistate operation catches 16 alleged child predators in less than 5 days

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

A Ridgewood police officer accused of arranging sex with a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl. A teacher at the High School of Computers and Technology in the Bronx accused of arranging to have sex with a person he thought was a 14-year-old boy. Those are two of the 16 alleged child predators caught in “Operation Home Alone.”

“During that chat, Roth shared his sexual fantasies with an undercover officer who he believed to be that minor boy. He’s also accused of asking the minor to send him naked pictures of himself,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said.

Also on the list: a minister, and drivers for Uber and Lyft.

“They used apps like Kik, Scout and Grindr to groom their victims and to lure them for sex,” Grewal said.

But instead of finding a child home alone, most of them showed up to an apartment where dozens of police officers and evidence technicians were waiting to arrest them.

“The 16 alleged child predators we arrested came from New Jersey, New York state and Philadelphia,” said Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice.

“In the past, child predators use to stalk children at playgrounds, at school yards, at shopping malls. Now they lurk on social media, using chat apps and gaming platforms,” Grewal said.

Grewal warned parents and family members to be on guard and to monitor their children’s social media apps.

“Are their chats restricted to their friends, or are strangers able to chat with them? Parents need to be vigilant and they need to tell their children not to share any personal information with strangers on the internet,” Grewal said.

Because the multiagency operation caught 16 alleged child predators in less than five days.

“I hate to say this, but if we extended that operation to a weekly basis, I imagine we would pick up 16 defendants at least a week because there are child predators out there using the anonymity of the internet,” Grewal said.

“For those that are at home thinking to go on that if they think they’re talking to a 14-year-old girl or boy, I hope in the back of their mind they think they’re talking to a New Jersey state trooper or to a detective in the Prosecutor’s Office,” said New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan.

Most of the defendants face charges of luring and attempted sexual assault of a minor. Those are second degree charges and each carries a sentence of up to 10 years.